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I am now a third of the way through reworking my essay - not fast progress, but progress, and I have a clearer idea of how to do the next third.  So I am allowed one post as a reward!!!

Yesterday I bumped into a couple of my folk in the building society in town where we paying money into our respective accounts.  These are good, honest people in fairly lowly paid jobs (he a postie, she a library assistant) who are working lots of overtime to pay off the costs of their daughter's modest wedding last autumn.  Seeing them quietly get on with life, and give to church and to charities, I found it very hard to sympathise with people striking for four days because they want a 13% pay rise.  Not that the people concerned don't work hard, or work long hours or even accept some level of risk to life and limb (so, actually do posties!  Beware postie-eating squirrels), it's just hard to understand how £36k - around 50% above the national average - is not enough to live on.

In a few minutes I will be walking round to deliver an 18th birthday card for the daughter of one of our church folk, so that it arrives before they all go out for the day to celebrate.  This is a family that has recently taken delivery of a brand new car for the first time ever, and only because one member is now entitled to a mobility allowance because of illness.  It took them many hours of soul-searching to accept this facility, rather simply buying another secondhand vehicle, because they know that, compared to many people, they are quite well off.

Tomorrow I face the task of trying to find a dentist - any dentist - who can repair or remove a tooth that broke on Friday morning.  Thankfully it is not painful but the rough edges are shredding my tongue!  Despite various attempts over the last four years I have failed to find an NHS dentist with any vacancies, and it seems the God who can turn fillings to gold for charismatics doesn't repair the teeth of HMF funded ministers!  Recently I met someone who is an NHS salaried dentist 'and proud of it', perhaps it is no surpise he is also a committed Christian.  Unfortunately he is over 100 miles away, so I can't call upon his services!!

All of this makes me think about the difference being a disicple of Jesus makes to attitudes, and how sometimes, when all is just pootling along, I fail to notice the quiet transformation of those among whom I minister.


PS I don't think God should fix my tooth, it would just be so convenient if God did!


  • Some information from UNITE:

    "...Shell tanker drivers today earn a basic wage of just under £32,000 per year for a 48-hour working week. In 1992, a typical tanker driver directly employed by Shell earned approximately £32,000 per year for a 37-hour week. Shell's board members typically received a 16 percent increase in their pay packets last year."

    I agree that our highest priority should be supporting low-paid workers, but I don't think Shell tanker drivers have been treated fairly. Shell is one of the most profitable companies in the world and their bosses "earn" millions. For tanker drivers to be earning the same they were 16 years ago but doing 11 hours a week more while their bosses absolutely rake it in, is not just and fits into James 5 territory as far as I'm concerned.

    Rather than playing off groups of workers against each other while the super-rich laugh at us all, surely it'd be better to argue for a fairer distribution of wealth that would benefit both the lowest-paid and middle earners?

  • Hi Tim,
    thanks for the input and info. Anyone citing my favourite book of the bible is bound to prompt more thoguht!

    It is a complicated topic, and I certainly wasn't meaning to suggest that tanker drivers have no right to feel miffed about internal injustices. Neither was I meaning to play groups of workers off against each other - otherwise I'd have put in HMF funded ministers right at the heart of it: average working week 70+ hours for £18k ;o).

    I think you're right that that there ought to a fairer distribution of wealth - but I have no idea what thet might look like!

  • I don't know what the end product of a fairer distribution of wealth would look like either!

    It would involve everyone having enough to have a decent standard of life, certainly. But not necessarily everyone having the same - to each according to her/his need, after all.

    There are lots of different suggestions for how to get there - some people talk about a guaranteed citizens' income involving high levels of redistribution by the state. Others talk about a maximum wage set at a low level, a high minimum wage and letting the market figure the rest out. Others would say that if workplaces were more democratic and workers had direct control over their working conditions and wages then it will all work itself out.

    But ultimately I don't think we need to concern ourselves too much about theorising on what a perfect society would look like economically. New ideas (and applications of ancient principles) tend to come from struggle. The way we'll all come up with solutions is to live amongst and support those engaged in struggle against those with economic power over them - and especially the most oppressed. We learn by doing.

    I'm sceptical about the possibility of achieving a society that is perfect economically before Jesus comes again, but I do think that increments matter. Societies that are more equal tend to have not only lower poverty but also lower crime & anti-social behaviour and better overall levels of health (especially mental health). Research shows that even societies that are slightly more equal are better in each of these categories*. So I'll support the government when it increases child benefit, child tax credits and working tax credits (shown to be the best way of reducing poverty and inequality). And I'll also support workers who are striking for better pay and conditions. And communities & individuals who are not organised into formal institutions but nevertheless oppressed and constantly under attack. And I'm sure that if we commit ourselves to that we'll constantly come up with ideas about how to take it further.

    * For a good treatment of this issue, I recommend "The Impact of Inequality" by Richard Wilkinson

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